Wednesday, March 2, 2011
TEENAGE BOYS IN TURNING POINTS
Saw an extra good movie today. NOWHERE BOY. It's John Lennon's story of his late teens having to do with his relationship with his mother in the time when he starts getting a band together, when he meets Paul and George. It ends at the time when the band leaves for Hamburg, Germany. The time in Germany is carried on in the film BACK BEAT, the story of their months playing in Germany. On the return from Germany to Liverpool was when they skyrocketed to such fame there were no auditoriums or football stadiums big enough for a Beatles audience anywhere in the world. In this story of his teen years, his initial motivation to learn to play a guitar and get a band going was to be the next Elvis. Of course, it was actors portraying them, but it gave an interesting peek at John, Paul and George as teenage rock star wannabes. Primarily, the film portrayed John's inner conflicts through his childhood that made him the man he became. It doesn't demystify the Beatles and it doesn't hold them up as a big deal. Dorky teenage boys with teenage problems. Very well made. A satisfying story.
Then last night saw a new one called RESTREPO, a documentary of Afghanistan war. I'd seen some press on it and heard it was up for an Academy Award, heard Sebastian Junger, who make the film, talk on I think it was the Diane Rehm Show. It sounded interesting. I know Junger as a good writer though devoid of emotional depth. That's how this film was. Well made, beautifully done, no emotional depth. Watching a group of American recent high school grads operating big guns and getting shot at. It was a friendly look, a getting acquainted with some of the boys doing what they do. My first warning that this was not going to be an in depth look at anything was when it came a National Geographic presentation. Meaning I suppose it was funded by National Geographic. Next thing to Disney, I thought. I knew it would be beautifully filmed and that would be it. Like swimming with scuba gear over coral reefs looking at multi-colored fish swimming around sponges and waving aquatic plants. This one above ground watching humans play war, seen from the good guy's point of view. It was antiseptic. Didn't see anything disturbing. Interviews with teenagers about their experience in the war. The guys talking about their experiences was far better than the rest of it. They went down deep a few times.
It did give a good sense of danger lurking everywhere all the time. That's what it did. It gave a sense of what it was like to be in a firefight with no one getting hit, shutting down feelings, aware that they are nothing like they were when they arrived in Afghanistan. They talk of reuniting husband and wife after he's being shot at for 15 months, returns home not knowing his wife's experience and she doesn't know his. Everything is different and they deal with it the best they can. The film was really more about suggestion, giving suggestions of what this experience and that felt like, looked like with the blood and terror removed. Blood and terror is what other war movies are about. This one focused more on giving insights into the varieties of experiences our boys on the evening news are getting in the desert mountains of Afghanistan. I sat thinking, how awful to have this experience as the peak experience of a man's life, the experience he spends the rest of his life identified with. I don't have it in me, so I can't understand why some men hold uniforms and semper fi as the highest of the high in the world of testosterone identity.
If Restropo wins the Oscar, I'll be surprised unless the Academy Awards are still as bad as they were back in the 60s when I quit paying attention to them. Everybody I talk with about them say they are much better now at really picking the best ones instead of the ones with the most influential promotion package. Sometime around 1967 or 68 I watched Miss America with a bunch of friends. I think it was Miss Massachusetts playing Mozart on a harp, flawlessly, beautifully. Miss Texas with a mouth as big as Steve Tyler's slam-banged chords to Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, singing, stretching her mouth as wide open as she could get it with each word showing all her teeth all the time, pearly white like the piano keys. She won. We all fell out in disbelief. Except: this is television. It's only about money. To imagine otherwise is to set oneself up for constant disappointment. I quit paying attention to all the awards shows. It was at the same time when Martin Luther King was assassinated, the year Bonnie & Clyde was up for the award. Because of one thing and another, every movie that had a black character in it go an award. That was it for me. I didn't have a problem with the blackness, only with the political correctness for its own sake.
This was my problem with being one of the boys whose life is on the line daily. They seemed to think it was at least about country, right or wrong not a consideration. It's a lousy-paying job when jobs are scarce. My "patriotism" has a difficult time allowing myself to put my life on the line for the financial benefit of Exxon, Halliburton, BP, etc., and so forth. Them making tons of money off me getting paid shit looking at death or crippled for life every day, and having a terrible time. I could not do my part crushing poor people in poor countries for the benefit of the mega corporations in the name of nationalism. But that's what I see when I look at our teenage boys being big men, which they actually are, for reasons that if they knew what they were, they would probably still be there. I am one of very few people I know apprehensive of the corporations now that they've taken over our government and homes, have become the vampires lurking in the shadows of the flickering light in everyone's tv room.